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Book has lots of tips for SUV buyers


Given the continuing popularity of sport utility vehicles and the huge sales they regularly tally up, it's surprising that there aren't more books on the subject.

Buyers hankering after an SUV have few dedicated reference sources to help them make their decision, but Land Rover North America has come to the rescue.

Since British automaker Land Rover was an SUV pioneer back in the 1940s, it's perhaps not surprising that it took on the task of publishing The Authoritative Guide to Sport Utility Vehicles, the latest edition of which was launched at the recent New York Auto Show.

The great thing about this 100-page, spiral-bound, soft cover book is that it's not simply a Land Rover PR effort. To the company's credit, it lays out the whys and wherefores of SUVs in an unbiased and independent fashion, only plugging its products in the last five pages or so. And it's up-to-date enough to include Cadillac's new Escalade.

Each available SUV in the compact/mid-size and large/luxury categories is fully described using line drawings and a full roster of specifications and highlights.

Since this is a US publication, prices are given in that nation's currency, but Canadian figures are easy enough to obtain. Also, there are several US market SUV products that are not available in Canada, but a helpful ''corporate cousins'' comparison chart gives equivalents in most cases. For example the Acura SLX is not sold here, but the near-identical Isuzu Trooper is.

There are chapters on how to choose the right SUV and where to start; how to make sense of the various 4WD systems; what you need to know about engines, drivetrains and brakes and lots of information on safety, technology and convenience items.

The text is accompanied by charts and illustrations to help explain the mystery of SUVs as effectively as possible. Graphic design is first-rate throughout the book. There are even spaces for note-taking as the buyer adds up pros and cons.

Especially interesting is a chapter on driving off-road, something every SUV owner should try, given BC's wealth of opportunities. It details vehicle preparation and lists emergency equipment SUV owners should consider taking along before heading out on the trails. Lots of excellent advice on backwoods driving techniques by off-road experts includes tips on water crossings, rocks and logs, steep grades and side hills. Also worth studying by newcomers is the section on off-road etiquette.

This information-packed book should provide a helping hand to anyone planning to buy an SUV of any make and there's plenty of useful advice for those who already own one. If there's one shortcoming, it's that smaller entry-level SUVs like the Suzuki Vitara and Toyota's RAV4 are not covered in the product section. Perhaps they will be added when Land Rover launches its economically-priced Freelander to serve that market in North America.

The Authoritative Guide to Sport Utility Vehicles is priced at $16:75 and can be obtained from Land Rover dealers or through the company's website at: